CQUniversity vice chancellor Scott Bowman.
CQUniversity vice chancellor Scott Bowman. File

Cloud hangs over CQUni-TAFE merger

THERE are fears today that a change of State Government could wreck the proposed merger of CQUniversity and CQ TAFE.

Capricorn Enterprise chief executive Mary Carroll said any lack of commitment to the project by a new LNP administration could destroy the merger and rob the region of millions of dollars of investment.

But The Morning Bulletin can exclusively reveal that, if the LNP grabs power next month, it will not automatically rubber stamp the proposal to create the state's first dual sector university.

Ted Malone, the party's front bench spokesman on skills and training, says the venture which has been promised $74 million of Commonwealth funding, will require very careful investigation before any decision to press ahead.

He told The Bully: "If we are successful in achieving government there will definitely be a place at the table for CQUniversity but there are some big decisions to be taken. We have to have a very close investigation into the role of TAFE and how to make it sustainable.

"There are some real problems with a number of TAFEs throughout the state running up substantial debts.

"My concerns about the proposed merger are concerned with debt and the need to see due diligence.

"The university will have the ability to discuss its proposition and we will look favourably upon it if we can with the knowledge that some of the dual sector partnerships elsewhere in the country have worked and some haven't.

"I am not signing an open cheque book for them. We need to know where we are going with TAFE. We need to understand about how we can protect TAFE's training facilities and the courses it provides.

"There are no guarantees with this. It is a new model for Queensland and we need to be very careful."

Those comments have sounded alarm bells in Rockhampton, with Ms Carroll asserting that timing will be crucial and any delays could result in losing the promised federal funding. "At least two studies have been completed and the due diligence process is being completed by a third party," she said. "The analysis the shadow minister refers to is being done.

"We risk losing the Commonwealth funding if the State Government does not act quickly as soon as it takes office. There's no time for another study."

She said the project had the support of industry and education sectors in the region and the LNP was well aware of that.

CQUniversity vice-chancellor Scott Bowman said the merger was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionise post-school education in CQ.

Mr Bowman said he was confident an LNP government would recognise what was at stake.

He said Mr Malone's comments were a surprise because LNP leader Campbell Newman had previously appeared enthusiastic and supportive.

Mayor Brad Carter said the merger simply had to happen.

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